Old LCD Screens Used for Medical Treatment

  • One research team recovered polyvinyl alcohol from the computer screens, which can be used in medicine (Photo courtesy of the National Cancer Institute)

Some researchers want to recycle
a chemical in computer screens to
use it for a medical treatment.
Shawn Allee reports:

Transcript

Some researchers want to recycle
a chemical in computer screens to
use it for a medical treatment.
Shawn Allee reports:

Most LCD computer screens contain toxic mercury. The European Union will soon mandate those screens be recycled rather than thrown away.

There are other metals and chemicals in the LCD screens that are not dangerous.

Dr. Avtar Matharu is with Britain’s University of York.

His research team recovered polyvinyl alcohol from the computer screens.

It’s used in spongy pads that deliver medicine.

“We can take out Polyvinyl alcohol from the front and back of an LCD screen. We can take what effectively would be a waste resource and potentially use it in a medical application.”

Matharu says getting polyvinyl alcohol out of LCD screens is expensive compared to making it from crude oil, but he says it could be another reason to recycle rather than throw them into a landfill.

For The Environment Report, I’m Shawn Allee.

Related Links

Brave New Warmer World for Vintners

  • Drier areas will find a warmer climate makes things tougher, but other areas might benefit (Photo by Patrick Tregenza, courtesy of the USDA Agricultural Research Service)

Farmers are starting to see signs
of climate change. One crop that’s more
susceptible to change than most is the wine
grape. Lester Graham reports not everybody
thinks that’s bad:

Transcript

Farmers are starting to see signs
of climate change. One crop that’s more
susceptible to change than most is the wine
grape. Lester Graham reports not everybody
thinks that’s bad:

Vineyards are likely to be especially affected by climate change.

Gregory Jones is a research climatologist at Southern Oregon University. He says
growing grapes for wine is always a tricky business, and climate change will make it
tricker.

Gregory Jones: “Pinot noir is produced in a cool climate and cabernet sauvignon in
a warm climate, and you cannot produce one in the other without having it affect
style, quality and flavor.”

So, grape growers across the nation are watching things closely. Drier areas will
find it tougher, but other areas actually might benefit.

Bill Hendricks is showing me his vines. Pinot grigio, cabernet franc, cabernet
sauvignon.

Hendricks says grape growers in central Michigan – where he is, Virginia, Missouri, California – they’re all beginning to see changes.

“They see it coming. You know, the record year of ’99—what, 2001 I also think.
Like, last year we were about ten days above norm. This year we’re four days above
norm.”

As the climate changes, some vineyards might have to switch to different varietals –
different kinds of grapes.

(sound of the peninsula)

More than 200 miles northwest of Hendrick’s vineyards, on a peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan, there’s a wine
growing area called Leelanau. It’s known for its white wines. It’s always been a little too
cool for red wine grapes, but things are changing.

Chalie Edson is the vintner at Bel Lago Vineyard and Winery. He says he doesn’t
want to call the warmer seasons global warming.

“Not being a climatologist, I’m going to answer
‘no.’ It’s tempting to say ‘Yes, yes. It’s getting warmer.’ Whether that translates into
overall increase of warmth in expected temperatures in the years to come, I think that’s still
somewhat speculative. But, I sort of hope that it happens.”

Yep, you heard right. Global warming would be beneficial to Edson. You might be
wondering, ‘why?’ Well, because this climate is better suited to white wines, and red wines
sell better.

“People come to northern
Michigan just like they come to any other winemaking region and they ask for reds.
We’ve made some really great progress in the last ten years in making reds as the
winemakers learn better how to utilize the fruit that we have here. And we’ve also
had a string of really warm vintages.”

But right now, Leelanua County is known for its white wines.

Climatologist, Gregory Jones says there’s a real question whether wine
consumers will be able to keep up with the changes.

“If you’re in a historic region that’s always produced pinot noir and all of a sudden
you really can’t do that, you know, because the climate’s changed, then you’re going
to grow merlot and you’re going to do it very well in that same place, but the
consumer has to be retrained.”

And so Burgandy wines might not come from Burgandy in the future, and wine
drinkers will have to try to keep up.

(sound of bottles clinking and price-tag gun clicking)

At Plum Market in Ann Arbor, Michigan, wine buyer Rod Johnson says climate
change has been a good thing for wine – so far.

“So, places like Michigan which traditionally have been too cold is suddenly seeing a
lot of different wines like pinot grigio and riesling, even pinot noir being able to be
grown here. So that’s beneficial. Same thing in Germany. They’ve had great year
after great year after great year in Germany where it used to be they were too cold.
When we get to the point that we’re hurting the wine business, I think there will be a
lot more hurt going elsewhere in the world.”

So if those dry California areas or Mediterranean areas get too warm and too dry for
wine grapes, that’ll probably be the least of their worries.

For The Environment Report, I’m Lester Graham.

Related Links

E-85 Pumps Not Ul Safe

  • Gas station pumps and underground storage tanks are not yet UL certified to handle E-85. (Photo by Lester Graham)

With thousands of flex-fuel vehicles hitting the road, gas stations are adding E-85 to
their fuels. E-85 is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. But, as Lester
Graham reports, storing and pumping E-85 fuel is a major concern because, so far,
no equipment has been certified as safe to handle it:

Transcript

With thousands of flex-fuel vehicles hitting the road, gas stations are adding E-85 to
their fuels. E-85 is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. But, as Lester
Graham reports, storing and pumping E-85 fuel is a major concern because, so far,
no equipment has been certified as safe to handle it:


The Department of Energy’s Handbook for Handling, Storing, and Dispensing E-85
warns, “certain materials commonly used with gasoline are totally incompatible with
alcohols.” Other government guidelines give detailed instructions about storing E-85
in underground storage tanks and the pumps people use to fill their vehicles. But,
with more and more filling stations adding E-85 pumps, not everyone is following the
instructions and warnings.


Brad Hoffman is with the nation’s largest underground storage tank service
company, Tanknology. The company inspects gas station distribution systems:


“I think they pretty much just took for granted that their tank could store whatever
fuel they put into it and they didn’t really check the compatibility of the tank and the
other piping and dispensing equipment. They didn’t really confirm that it was
compatible with the E-85 that was being delivered.”


And some of the fiberglass underground storage tanks are not compatible. Ethanol
can soften the polymers in certain tanks. That can make them weaker and might
cause them to leak. There’s also concern that leak detection equipment might also
be damaged by ethanol. So if a tank is leaking, it might go undetected. And it’s not
just the tanks. There are questions about compatibility with the pumps filling flex-fuel
vehicles.


The ethanol industry says there have been no major problems with tanks or pumps
so far. Matt Hartwig is with the Renewable Fuels Association:


“Most gas station operators will use tanks that are appropriate. They will clean the
tanks. They would do the proper maintenance and the proper preparation required
to install E-85 infrastructure. Because of the nature of ethanol, you do need a
dedicated tank and pump system to dispense the fuel. I don’t think consumers and
the American driver have anything to fear.”


But fuel tank and gas pump inspectors are not as sure. Brad Hoffman with
Tanknology says government guidelines give checklists of recommendations on how
to prepare tanks and pumping systems:


“Being realistic, I think there’s a chance that some marketers may, you know, for
whatever reason, may not thoroughly check each of those items. And there could be
some problems, either with the tanks or the dispensing systems.”


Problems that could cause leaks.


Underwriters Laboratories is the safety testing organization that certifies the safety of equipment storing and pumping fuels. John Drengenberg is with
UL. He says it was only last year that a manufacturer asked for requirements for equipment handling E-85. Drengenberg says old gasoline equipment might not
be safe to pump E-85:


“The alcohol is different in that it’s much more corrosive. We know for a fact that
alcohol will attack soft metals, in particular aluminum and copper, things of that type,
and even plastics. So, therefore, what worked for gasoline dispensers, may not work
for ethanol dispensers.”


Drengenberg says gaskets, seals, and o-rings in the pump, hose or handle could
deteriorate and mean leaking fuel at the pump:


“With this type of fuel, ethanol, we’re mostly worried about fire hazards. If there is a
leak – let’s say for some reason ethanol attacked a gasket or a seal on a dispenser,
you could have a fuel leak – the fuel leak could be very dangerous in that any spark
could set it off. You could have a fire or possibly an explosion. So, that is the
concern that we have, certainly. And that is why we’re developing requirements for
these ethanol dispensers.”


UL expects to issue requirements for equipment by the end of the year. In the
meantime, whether the tanks and pumps offering E-85 at your gas station are safe is
up to the judgment of the local fire chief, fire marshal, or other local official.


For the Environment Report, this is Lester Graham.

Related Links

States Slow to Pump Up Ethanol

  • As the price of gasoline rises, many states are looking for alternatives. One of those alternatives is the ethanol blend, E-85. But, some states (like Ohio) are not keeping up with the trend. (Photo by Lester Graham)

The federal government is focusing new attention on research and development of ethanol. Some states – especially those in the corn belt – are getting into the act too. The GLRCs Karen Kasler reports:

Transcript

The federal government is focusing new attention on research and
development of ethanol. Some states – especially those in the corn belt –
are getting into the act too. The GLRC’s Karen Kasler reports:


Now that gasoline is near or above three dollars a gallon, ethanol seems
to be everywhere. The Renewable Fuels Association says more than a
third of the gasoline in the U.S is blended with ethanol, an alcohol based
fuel made with the sugar found in corn and other grains. A 10 percent
ethanol/gasoline blend can be used in every vehicle on the road, but
many politicians and consumers are very interested in the 85 percent
ethanol blend – E-85 – as an alternative fuel for cars and trucks. But
getting E-85 to drivers who have cars which can use it isn’t that easy.


Tadd Nicholson with the Ohio Corn Growers Association, says part of
the problem is the big oil companies have banned E-85 pumps under the
canopies at branded stations.


“Oil companies don’t own ethanol production. They own oil refining,
and so that’s their profit center and that’s where they get their fuel and so
they have a lot of control over that. They don’t own ethanol. I don’t
know why. They should, but they aren’t in the ethanol ownership
business yet. I say ‘yet’.”


The governors of Wisconsin and Minnesota have asked the big oil
companies to change their E-85 policy, and some states have been
encouraging independent gasoline dealers to put in E-85 pumps for a few
years.


But others, such as Ohio, have been lagging behind in the trend. Only
recently has Ohio launched a new energy action plan that sounds
ambitious, when it comes to providing access to ethanol to drivers.


LeeAnn Mizer is with the Ohio Department of Agriculture.


“The goal is to triple the amount of E-85 pumps available to Ohio
consumers by the end of 2006.”


That sounds like a lot – but it’s not, says Dwayne Seikman heads up the
Ohio Corn Growers Association.


“Tripling’s a nice start. There’s six… that would go to 18. But with over
150,000 vehicles in the state of Ohio, that’s not enough to cover the
effort.”


Since corn is Ohio’s top crop… it would seem to make sense. But unlike
other states in the corn belt, there are no ethanol plants in operation in
Ohio, though there are at least three under construction, and ethanol
supporters say the state is way behind its neighbors when it comes to
getting ethanol pumps at service stations.


Sam Spofforth is executive director of Clean Fuels Ohio.


“I’ll be honest, we’d like to see a lot more and we think a lot more is
certainly very possible. Indiana, they’re up to about 25 to 30 stations.
Illinois has over a hundred. Minnesota has almost 200 at this point.
Even places like Arizona are putting in E-85. They don’t make any corn
in Arizona. We think Ohio can do a lot more.”


Some critical studies have found that ethanol has a high energy cost with
low benefits – ethanol supporters say that’s been debunked. Whether
ethanol makes economic or ecological sense or not is still not certain.
But one thing is certain – cars using ethanol blends need to fill up more
than those using regular unleaded gasoline.


Robert White with the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition says that’s
offset because typically ethanol-blended fuels cost less than regular
unleaded gas.


“Well, no doubt the fuel economy is the only negative with E-85, and we
tell folks that is where the price differential hopefully is there to make
E-85 use a wash.”


Part of the reason the price is lower is because the ethanol industry is
heavily subsidized by the government. Those lower costs would quickly
disappear if the subsidies were removed. Because ethanol is cleaner
burning, many support further development and use of the renewable
fuel.


General Motors is increasing the number of vehicles it produces that can
burn ethanol. Ford already produces E-85 burning cars and trucks.
However, many believe for ethanol production to be truly efficient,
farmers will have to start growing crops such as switch grass for ethanol
because corn requires too much fossil fuel based fertilizer and other
inputs to make it a permanent solution.


For GLRC, I’m Karen Kasler.

Related Links

Converting Garbage Into Ethanol

A company in the Great Lakes region wants to convert trash into fuel. You might have heard of plants that burn garbage to create energy. But this plant is different. This plant would convert organic trash into ethanol. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant reports:

Transcript

A company in the Great Lakes region wants to convert trash into fuel. You might have
heard of plants that burn garbage to create energy. But this plant is different. This plant
would convert organic trash into ethanol. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie
Grant reports:


The walls of Genahol, Inc., are covered with pictures of Donald Bogner’s wife and
children. Bogner is a ruddy-looking man with a friendly attitude. He’s the kind of guy
who likes to get things done. He started Genahol seven years ago, with the idea that he
could turn paper, leaves, and grass clippings into fuel.


“The green waste is such a problem, because, what do you do with it? Well, you chop it
up, you mix manure with it, you package it, and sooner or later you finally say, hey, I
can’t sell this stuff.”


Bogner says Genahol can make fuel out nearly any plant material. A lot of green waste
winds up in landfills. But Bogner patented a new kind of process. It converts green and
paper waste to sugar, distills the sugar into alcohol and transforms the alcohol into
ethanol. Until now, ethanol has usually been made from corn or other grains. Bogner
says they’ve been surprised by how many products they can re-use to make ethanol.
Anything from stale beer, to old perfume, or factory-rejected candy…


“You just can’t imagine the volume when you start talking about Christmas candy canes.
And a bad batch of candy canes may be three million candy canes that a producer has to
destroy because they came out wrong in a batch or whatever. So, you know, three
million candy canes (laughs).”


If a Genahol facility is built, Bogner says it could convert anywhere from one hundred to
one-thousand tons of waste per day and make up to three million gallons of ethanol a
year. As long as the selling price of ethanol remains over a dollar a gallon, Bogner says
Genahol can make money. But he needs a deal. He needs a city that’s willing to let him
sort through the trash. It should be an easy sell, he says, because cities could save landfill
space and get a cut of the profits from ethanol sales.


“The hardest sell right now is that we cannot right now take them to a facility and show
them ethanol coming out of a spigot.”


And that’s the problem not only with Genahol, but with other companies that want to
convert waste to ethanol. Their ideas are theoretical. But Bogner says things are about to
change for Genahol. He’s negotiating a contract with the Solid Waste Authority of
Central Ohio, known as SWACO. It is in charge of trash in Columbus and owns one of
the largest public landfills in the country. Executive Director Mike Long is interested in
Bogner’s ideas.


“We are always looking for new methods, cost effective methods to reduce, reuse and
recycle the waste stream to reduce reliance on landfills. That is our primary purpose at
SWACO, to reduce reliance on landfills.”


SWACO already diverts yard wastes and paper from the trash stream, but there hasn’t
been much of a market for those products. That’s why Long says contracting with
Genahol makes sense.


“It’s being approached on, I think, a very conservative point of view, small scale pilot
project. Trying to minimize the risk to SWACO and the public from a financial point of
view.”


It might be a bit of a risk. SWACO and other trash managers got burned in the mid-
1990s by waste-to-energy facilities. Some plants were forced to close because they
emitted too much pollution. Genahol’s Don Bogner says the only emissions from his
plant will be carbon dioxide, which he plans to capture and sell for industrial use.
Bogner and SWACO are negotiating one of the first deals in the nation for a trash-to-
ethanol plant. Many entrepreneurs trying to sell similar ideas are having a tough time
making a deal. Monte Shaw, an ethanol industry spokesperson, says these companies
should hang on a little longer.


“It’s always harder to be first. It’s always harder to convince investors, and banks, and
government agencies, that this is going to work. ”


The government is considering tax breaks and financial assistance to encourage new
ethanol plants. One reason the government is interested is to cut dependence on foreign
oil. Another reason, is ethanol is a good replacement for MTBE in gasoline. MTBE has
been used to reduce ozone pollution, but the chemical has contaminated water supplies
and the government wants to phase it out. Don Bogner expects the move from MTBE to
increase demand for ethanol. He’s wondering if that means Genahol will be able to turn a
profit.


“That’s what my wife asks me, are we going to make money this year?”


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Julie Grant in Kent.

CONVERTING GARBAGE INTO ETHANOL (Short Version)

A company in the Great Lakes region wants to convert trash into fuel. This could be one of the first plants in the nation to convert organic trash into ethanol. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant reports:

Transcript

A company in the Great Lakes region wants to convert trash into fuel. This could be one
of the first plants in the nation to convert organic trash into ethanol. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant reports:


The president of Genahol, Inc., says his facilities can make fuel out of nearly any plant
material. A lot of paper, leaves, and grass clippings wind up in landfills. But Donald
Bogner patented a new kind of process. It converts green waste to sugar, distills the
sugar into alcohol and transforms the alcohol into ethanol. Ethanol is usually made from
corn or other grains. Bogner says Genahol reuses other people’s trash.


“Genahol actually receives payment for its materials. Rather than going out and having
to pay a dollar fifty to two fifty a bushel for corn or something, we actually get paid on a
tonnage basis. So it can be very, very profitable.”


No Genahol facility has yet been built. Bogner and the Solid Waste Authority of Central
Ohio are negotiating one of the first deals in the nation for a trash-to-ethanol plant.


For
the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Julie Grant in Kent.

Usda Running on Alternative Fuels

The Department of Agriculture is expanding its use of alternative fuels generated by farms. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

The Department of Agriculture is expanding its use of alternative fuels generated by farms. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.


The USDA is increasing the use of bio-diesel and ethanol. Bio-diesel is a fuel that can be made by refining natural oils such as animal fat, spent cooking oil or soy bean oil. Ethanol is a blend of gasoline and alcohol, usually derived from corn. USDA agencies such as the Forest Service will increase the use of the fuels in fleet vehicles, including cars, tractors, and even boats at agency offices across the nation. Donald Comis is a spokesperson for the Department of Ag.


“It’s a deliberate strategy of the whole federal government to have demonstration areas all over the country so that you won’t have to travel far to see a vehicle or operation like your own.”


While the USDA is promoting bio-diesel and ethanol, some environmental groups say the taxpayer subsidized fuels use too much energy to produce and only survive because of politics. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Regional Winemakers Worry About Disease

Some winemakers are battling a disease called "black goo." It’s caused
by a fungus that leaves infected grape vines stunted and weak. As the
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson reports, no one’s sure
where the disease is coming from, or where it might turn up:

Transcript

Some winemakers are battling a disease called “black goo.” It’s caused by a fungus that leaves infected grape vines stunted and weak. As teh Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson reports, no one’s sure where the disease is coming from, or where it might turn up:


Black goo has claimed an estimated nine-thousand acres of vines in California. That’s only about one percent of the state’s vineyards. But so far, there’s no cure; the only thing growers can do is rip up the vines and replant.


Ironically, some think the ever-growing popularity of California wines may be contributing to the problem.


“In other years, some of the weaker vines would have been thrown away.”


Wayne Wilcox is a professor of plant pathology with Cornell University.


“One of the prevailing theories is that this disease – the fungi that are causing it – are preying on some of these weaker vines.”


Wilcox says there have been a couple of isolated reports of black goo outside of California, including one case in New York. But he says Great Lakes winemakers shouldn’t panic. Instead, Wilcox advises them to examine vines carefully and reject any that look weak.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Wendy Nelson.

Natural Cork Makers Unite

For hundreds of years, wine-makers have used natural cork – made
from tree bark – to seal their bottles. But natural corks are… well,
natural.
And sometimes they harbor a mold that can cause wine to go bad. Some
wine-makers are switching to synthetic corks – made of plastic – as a
solution. But right now, they only make up about one-percent of the
market. Nevertheless, natural cork manufacturers are taking action.
The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson reports: